Sunday, October 24, 2010

Backpacker Hunter - "Killer Hike"

This is one of the rare times that I have seen an article on "the other side" done to this level.
 
*Note* there are 9 pages to it, so when you finish the first click on the 2 just below it, then 3, etc. I struggled a bit until my 9 year old pointed it out...........Mark Hirvonen

From Backpacker Magazine
Killer Hike

When a lifelong backpacker decides to shoot a deer, will he lose touch with the wilderness he loves--or get closer to it?
by: Bruce Barcott Photography by Paolo Marchesi
Tracking dear in the Snake River Bluffs.
Tracking dear in the Snake River Bluffs.

Day three: Gator’s last chance at a deer. We decide to hit it hard, hunting the Blue Mountains’ ponderosa pine forests in the morning and working the isolated Grande Ronde River breaks in the afternoon.

At first light, Gator and I and Shaun Bristol, who has joined us for the morning, set up on the edge of a Blue Mountain meadow. We’d seen some does browsing in the field at dusk the previous night, and figure we might catch a buck among them this morning. We lean against the rough bark of the ponderosas, trying to blend in and remain motionless. If open-field hunting is all about covering ground and flushing game, forest hunting requires opposite tactics: Hide and wait for the prey to come to you. Or so we think. We’re hunting for the first time without Jennifer—a solo flight of sorts.

As Gator creeps forward for a better view, a spear of meadow barley nails him in the eye.

“God damn,” he says, pulling the barbs out of his eyelid.

“Um, guys…” Shaun is trying to get our attention.

“Did you get it out?” I ask. Gator shakes his head.

“Guys…” Shaun says. I look back at him. He points to two whitetail bucks quietly crossing

the road 20 yards behind us.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I say. The deer catch our movement and bolt into the
forest. I laugh at the thought of Gator and me standing there, Jethro and Elmer Fudd, as our prey fearlessly strolls by.

In the afternoon, we load our packs with food and water and hitch a ride to the rim of the Grande Ronde River canyon. The Grande Ronde, a tributary of the Snake, unwinds like a curling ribbon through the Columbia Plateau near the Oregon-Washington border. It’s world famous for its steelhead, and the dry, brushy ravines above the river are prime habitat for deer, coyote, wild turkey, chukar, black bear, elk, and bighorn sheep.

We have a plan. Gator and I will start about a quarter-mile apart at the top of the rim, then pick our way down in a V that meets at the bottom of the ravine. I’ll flush the deer in Gator’s direction.

As I heel plunge down the scab-land ravine, my eyes scanning for movement, Gator in my periphery, a sort of perfect moment comes over me. My own hunt is done. Because I’ve already bagged my deer, I can relax and enjoy the hike, the camaraderie, the strategy and cunning, the suspense, and the pure joy of physical movement in the wild. Gator, on the other hand, hunts with all the pressure and anxiety of a live trigger. If you’re doing it right, hunting comes with a huge responsibility. You’ve got to line up a good shot, not carelessly wound the animal, not shoot something illegal, not crack off an errant bullet that flies into a house a half-mile away, and not kill your partner. It’s not that far from mountain climbing, in fact. A certain amount of danger and risk enhances the experience of moving across wild terrain. It revs up your adrenaline and puts the senses on edge. Hunting combines strategy, motion, experience, skill, and danger.


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